Holmes still leads by 2 at Doral

Miami, FL – J.B. Holmes dumped four balls in the water in Friday’s second round, but battled to a 1-over 73 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Holmes finished 36 holes at 9-under-par 135 at Trump National Doral. Holmes picked up his third PGA Tour win last year at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Ryan Moore managed a 1-under 71 and he remained alone in second place at minus-7. Adam Scott carded a 4-under 68 for the low round of the day. He jumped into third place at 6-under-par 138.

Bubba Watson, who shared second place at this event last year, shot 3-under 69. He was joined in fourth place at 4-under 140 by Henrik Stenson (71).

Ryan Palmer (70), 2011 runner-up Dustin Johnson (73) and Alexander Levy (73) are tied for sixth place at minus-3, while Sergio Garcia (69) and Jamie Donaldson (72) are one stroke further back at 2-under 142. Donaldson shared second place with Watson last year.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy mixed six birdies and four bogeys in a round of 70. He is tied for 11th at 1-under 143. Defending champion Patrick Reed (73) shares 18th place at even-par 144.

Holmes’ round got off to a rough start. His second shot to the par-5 first landed on the front, left side of the green, but rolled off the right side of the putting surface and trickled into the water.

After a drop, Holmes chipped to nine feet and 2-putted for bogey. He quickly atoned for that mistake as he rolled in a 12-foot birdie effort on No. 2.

Holmes found water for a second time at the third as his second shot missed the green right and bounced into the pond. That led to another bogey. After four pars in a row, dropped his third to the par-5 eighth to four feet and he knocked that in for birdie.

The 32-year-old hit his tee shot at the par-3 ninth to 31 feet, but he 3- putted for bogey en route to making the turn at minus-9.

Holmes got that stroke right back with a 2-putt birdie on the par-5 10th. His tee shot on the par-3 13th found sand and that led to a bogey. Holmes birdied the 16th and 17th, but from inside 10 feet.

At the last, Holmes’ drive found water left of the fairway. He missed the green with his third and chipped to 11 feet. Holmes 2-putted for a closing double-bogey, which trimmed his lead to two strokes.

“I hit the ball really, really good, but I didn’t putt the ball as well (as Thursday). Only had a few bad swings, but today every time I had a bad swing it was at the wrong time and went in the water,” Holmes said. “I had four balls in the water, but hit the ball great. It was kind of back and forth. All in all, it was a good day.”

Moore played the back nine first on Friday and he opened with four pars in a row. He missed the green at No. 14 and that led to the only bogey of his round.

The four-time PGA Tour winner erased that mistake at the 15th, where he poured in a 30-footer for birdie. He ran off 10 consecutive pars from the 16th.

Moore ended that run of pars by draining a 36-footer to save par at the seventh. He tapped in a 2-footer for birdie at the par-5 eighth to move to minus-7. Moore parred the last to end there.

“To have that (par) save on three kind of kept it rolling, and then a great putt on seven and backed it up with a birdie on eight. It was a nice finish to the day,” Moore stated. “It was hard to get a 10-, 12-footer for birdie today. There were a lot of pins I was hitting to 25 feet and was happy to be there.”

NOTES: This is the fourth time Holmes has had the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour … He won one of the previous three times he was in that position … His best finish at this event is a tie for 18th in 2010 … Phil Mickelson carded a 2-over 74 and he fell into a share of 41st at plus-4 … Webb Simpson and Morgan Hoffmann had the only two bogey-free rounds on Friday.

New Zealand Rugby to monitor betting patterns in bid to stop match-fixing

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New Zealand Rugby have begun monitoring global betting patterns in an attempt to guard against match-fixing. As rugby moves into ever larger financial markets, NZ Rugby has signed a two-year deal with international company Sportradar. Fraud Detection …
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Big weekend for 3-year-olds

Saturday and Sunday will comprise the biggest weekend of the season for Kentucky Derby hopefuls on the road to the Run for the Roses on May 2.

Four important stakes races for 3-year-olds will be offered over the two days with significant points available in two of them to allow the winners a place in the Derby’s 20-horse field at Churchill Downs.

These Derby prep races will begin with the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile event has drawn a field of eight with local winner Upstart the 8-5 morning line favorite.

Upstart, trained by Rick Violette, won Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Stakes last month and will be challenged Saturday by the next three horses under the wire in that event. Runner-up Frosted is 5-2 in the program, while third-place finisher Bluegrass Singer is 8-1 and Bina and Juan, fourth in the Holy Bull, is 20-1 in the morning line. The winning 3-year-old receives 50 points, which should guarantee a spot in the Run for the Roses.

“I think the winner was most impressive that day and, hopefully, he doesn’t run as impressive this time and he drops back to us a length or two and we gain a length or two with the blinkers and a better post position,” Frosted’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.

About 55 minutes after the Fountain of Youth will be the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes from Fair Grounds. The 1 1/16-mile stakes has attracted 10 3-year-olds with 50 points going to the winner as well.

The morning line odds for the Risen Star offers little separation among the 10 entered. The 7-2 favorite is Imperia, making his 2015 debut for McLaughlin following a two-month break.

Local winner International Star is 9-2 in the program, but has drawn the far outside post position. The colt won Fair Grounds’ Lecomte Stakes in January over War Story. Saturday’s 5-1 co-third choice, War Story was sent to Oaklawn Park for the Southwest Stakes, but returned to New Orleans after drawing post 11.

“It just didn’t work out. We drew an outside post position and there’s a strong statistical negative to that post,” trainer Tom Amoss noted. War Story has post 6 for Saturday.

Going off around the same time as the Risen Star will be the $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park. Named for the 2009 Kentucky Derby champ, the Mine That Bird Derby will have six 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles. While no Kentucky Derby points are available, the race is a prep for the Sunland Derby, which offers 50 qualifying points to the winner.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle Cinco Charlie, the even-money program favorite, in the Mine That Bird. Cinco Charlie won the track’s Riley Allison Derby four weeks ago by nine lengths and has six wins in nine career starts.

Another stakes race Saturday will be the $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby from Turf Paradise in Arizona. The 1 1/16-mile stakes offers no Kentucky Derby points, but nine 3-year-olds have been entered with the Sunland Derby often the next race.

The weekend racing was extended into Sunday after the postponement of the $300,000 Southwest Stakes from President’s Day to Sunday at Oaklawn Park. Post positions needed to be redrawn for the Southwest, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11.

A dozen 3-year-olds were originally entered, but several also have been entered for the Risen Star. Expected for the Southwest are Far Right, Private Prospect, Bayerd, The Truth Or Else, Kantune, Phenomenal Phoenix, Majestico, Bold Conquest, Mr. Z and Bold Animaux. Original Southwest entrants War Story and J S Bach are entered in the Fair Grounds stakes.

“With another week, anybody who had run within the last 13 days, now they’re looking at 20 days,” Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope said. “It seems like another chapter in the horse’s life when you go another week.”

Far Right won the track’s Smarty Jones Stakes last month and again will have Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle.

Ronaldo, Real topple Schalke

Gelsenkirchen, Germany  – Cristiano Ronaldo scored a goal and assisted on another as Real Madrid secured a 2-0 first-leg win in its Champions League knockout round match at Schalke on Wednesday.

Madrid entered the fixture as heavy favorites to reach the quarterfinals, and Wednesday’s result puts them well on their way as Ronaldo headed his team in front in the 26th minute before setting up a fine strike from Marcelo 11 minutes from time.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team now returns home for the second leg on March 10 with a comfortable lead and should have little trouble advancing to the last eight against a Schalke side that put up a strong effort on Wednesday.

Former Madrid forward Klaas Jan Huntelaar had the first chance in the 25th minute when he tested goalkeeper Iker Casillas with a 20-yard effort that forced the netminder to make a save at full stretch.

But just one minute later Madrid took the lead through Ronaldo as he made a well-timed run to the front of goal and sent a glancing header past goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther from a Daniel Carvajal cross.

Wellenreuther did well to keep out a low shot from Karim Benzema after he was released in behind the Schalke defense by Toni Kroos, and he came up big once again in the 35th to tip a free kick from Ronaldo onto the crossbar.

Isco squandered a good chance to double the lead in the 72nd when he played a one-two with Gareth Bale and fired a shot over the net from inside the box, while Schalke came within inches of equalizing a few minutes later.

A long ball was knocked down inside the box by Atsuto Uchida, setting up a first-time shot for substitute Felix Platte that hammered the crossbar.

The visitors extended their lead in the 79th following a nice individual effort from Ronaldo, who split two defenders on the left wing and fed a pass to Marcelo inside the area. The Brazilian took a touch and lashed a shot into the upper right corner to put the result the away.

Wednesday’s other match saw FC Porto and FC Basel battle to a 1-1 draw as Porto’s Danilo converted a penalty kick in the 79th minute to cancel out an 11th-minute strike from Basel’s Derlis Gonzalez.

Mayweather, Pacquiao agree to fight

Report: Mayweather, Pacquiao agree to fight

The wait is apparently over, boxing fans.

According to England’s The Sunday Telegraph, one of the most anticipated fights in boxing history will likely take place May 2 in Las Vegas between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

Fans and analysts alike have long voiced their desire to see a meeting between two of boxing’s biggest draws and best fighters, but monetary issues have held up the possible fight on numerous occasions over the years.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Pacquiao completed his contractual agreements Saturday and Mayweather is set to sign soon.

The fighters will split $250 million for the fight, according to the report, with Mayweather expected to get 60 percent of that purse.

Mayweather (47-0) is coming off back-to-back wins over Marcos Maidana while Pacquiao (57-5) has won three straight fights since losing consecutive bouts to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Day jumps to No. 4 in world rankings

Day jumps to No. 4 in world rankings

Philadelphia, PA – Jason Day defeated J.B. Holmes, Harris English and 2014 champion Scott Stallings in a playoff to win the Farmers Insurance Open Sunday, and that victory helped vault Day into the No. 4 spot in the world rankings.

Day was previously No. 8 in the world, but the win saw him improve four spots up to No. 4.

Rory McIlroy remained in firm control of the world’s No. 1 ranking despite not playing last week. Also staying put was Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

As he jumped up to No. 4, Day bumped fellow Australian Adam Scott down one to No. 5. Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia swapped spots, with Furyk up one to No. 6 and Garcia down one to No. 7.

After missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open last week, Justin Rose fell three spots from five to eight. Jordan Spieth also missed the cut, but he is still at nine, while Matt Kuchar held steady at 10.

Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker and Hideki Matsuyama remained Nos. 11-14, while Patrick Reed and Victor Dubuisson traded places, with Reed jumping one to 15 and Dubuisson falling a spot to 16.

Billy Horschel, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Graeme McDowell rounded out the top 20 again from No. 17.

After withdrawing in the first round of last week’s event, Tiger Woods continued to fall further in the world rankings. Woods dropped six spots to No. 62, which is the worst he has been since October of 1996.

Looking to punch his Masters ticket this year, Anirban Lahiri jumped 36 spots into the top 50 and up to No. 37 following his 1-shot victory at the Maybank Malaysian Open last week.

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